British Consul Kevin McGurgan and staff from the British Consulate in Orlando, Fla., are visiting the Virgin Islands this week, checking out hotels and ports and meeting with various local government representatives.
At a small reception Tuesday night on St. Thomas, McGurgan said the consul wants to appoint someone in the Virgin Islands to be its on-site representative. Currently it relies on a representative in Puerto Rico to cover the Virgin Islands.
While the post is generally honorary and ceremonial, the representatives can work with local stake-holders and with the consulate to give assistance to British nationals who encounter problems while traveling, such as serious illness, lost documents, natural disasters or crime.
On Wednesday Dean Churm, regional operations manager from Orlando, and other staff reviewed emergency management protocols with Elton Lewis, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and VITEMA’s newly appointed assistant director, William E. Linzey.
“It was part of their overall assessment of the territory,” Lewis said. “I was pleased to show off our facility and operations.”
Lewis said the group toured the 911 Center and the VITEMA headquarters near the University of the Virgin Islands, and that he gave a briefing outlining the procedures the territory takes when a hurricane or major storm threatens.
McGurgan was scheduled to visit St. Croix on Wednesday and was to travel also to Tortola. In his remarks at the reception, McGurgan indicated an interest in business in the region as well as tourism.
Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis welcomed McGurgan at the reception, telling him he will find Virgin Islanders are a very friendly people.
Currently Great Britain represents a very small share of the U.S. territory’s tourism market.
Assistant Tourism Commissioner Monique Sibilly Hodge said she did not have numbers by country, only by region. For the year to date as of last August, the territory’s hotels reported 21,463 overnight visitors came from Europe. That figure represented 4.3 percent of the total number of hotel guests.
In brief remarks at the reception Tuesday, Hodge said there are no direct flights from England to the Virgin Islands but “we’re working on it.